Market expansion strategies
At this point the development strategies of Kong involved a change of image in the eyes of the consumer, not only offering connectors, but above all safety.
The range of products grew considerably, and now included pulleys, descenders and ascenders for ropes, helmets, harnesses, but mostly they began to produce specific articles for mountain rescue such as stretchers, fishing poles and various other specific tools needed for mountaineering use, adapted to the needs of those living the mountains not only for leisure but for professional reasons.
In the early 1980s, Kong was the only Italian company that manufactured carabiners for mountaineering, while in the worldwide market there were five manufacturers: Simond and La Prade (French), Faders (Spanish), Stubai (Austrian) and Chouinard (American).
On the world market there were about eighteen different brands of connectors for rock-climbing, but ten of these were produced by Kong.
In 1986 the company Aludesign was founded and began producing climbing carabiners. The competition from a new manufacturer led the company to introduce highly sophisticated carabiners.
The product’s convenient and economical image was abandoned, in favour of a high-tech article.
In 1987 Kong filed the patent for a new carabiner fastening system, to eliminate any point that could entangle the rope. This particular system, called "Key Lock", drew its name from the shape of the joint between the lever and the body of the connector, which resembled a keyhole. Its purpose was to eliminate from the body and from the finger any bumps that might wear down the rope or impede its insertion and removal. This fastening, in comparison with other carabiners, offered the advantage of sufficient security, even if the lever were about 2mm.
A few years later, with the same spirit of innovation, FROG was born; a revolutionary unidirectional connector with an automatic clamp, for specific anchor points.
Designed in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano, FROG is an absolutely new connector in terms of both form and operating mechanism: FROG completely changes the concept of a "carabiner" in its capacity as a hook.
Insertion is extraordinarily fast and safe, even in anchor points that are not easily reached with classic connectors.
The FROG has been patented and to this day is known the world over as a symbolic product manufactured by Kong.
Meanwhile Kong began to also make its name in the nautical sector, thanks to the supply of metal accessories, shackles, rings and carabiners, required for finishing off the equipment of a vessel.
The most famous and valued products were the famous revolving or fixed joints, in carbon steel or stainless steel, that are used to connect the chain to the anchor; the range of these articles was implemented with new measures and versions and is still available in the company's catalogues.
In the late 1980s a special shackle was patented, the chain gripper, which was used to join together the chains that were used on boats, having a size ranging between 5 and 12 mm. Also complementary articles to those already in production were produced: a support for powerful outboard motors, which was an accessory already known in the U.S. market, while in Europe there were no manufacturers of this component; and a special carabiner for towing water skis equipped with quick release mechanism.
Marine production technologies specialising in anticorrosion treatments were thenthen also applied to the rings and carabiners sold to the chemical and food industry, where the product must have a high surface resistance.
Kong became practically the only western manufacturer of stainless steel carabiners for industrial use. The customer was willing to pay a surplus of price, to have a product guaranteed and certified according to CE regulations, through destructive tests aimed at assessing the limit of breakage, resistance and corrosion. In those years the manufacturers of China and Taiwan were specialized in the production of non-certified carabiners, intended for uses that did not require particular technical requirements.
Meanwhile, the production of carabiners and personal protective equipment was flanked by more complex articles intended for mountain and sea rescue operations.
With the collaboration of the emergency corps, the fishing pole “Stelvio” was created,along with the "Cevedale" tripod and innovative stretcher, "Lecco", which thanks to the unique feature of being able to be disassembled and easily transported over the shoulders, became the standard for all emergency situations where a helicopter could not reach due to bad weather conditions.
Thanks to this intuition, within a short time Kong became a reference point for the development and production of articles devoted to emergency and rescue operations, opening up the road in an area that was still fertile, and very satisfying both in economic and moral terms.
Alongside these new areas, towards the end of the ‘80s a new sports discipline was identified, to diversify production.
The decision to produce golfing items, which were not in competition with those produced by Kong, retraced one of the Bonaiti family’s expansion strategies: differentiating production into an independent sector, which could then be detached from the company.
In 1989 Kong began producing all the necessary equipment for golf with a new brand named MC Creation Made in the Principality of Monaco, or more simply Monte Carlo. Some articles, such as golf clubs and bags, were assembled as made-to-measure items for customers who made specific requests for certain technical and aesthetic needs.
To publicise the new product range, sponsorship contracts were entered into, with professional players, including the well-known player Costantino Rocca.
This venture continued until the first years of 2000, when the company decided to abandon it permanently to devote itself to new areas.